My helmet had scrapes across the chinbar and face shield, a gouge out of one side and scrapes on the other.
My jacket, which had been brand new, now looked weathered and scraped. It showed where I had slid along the road on my back for some distance — right where the optional back armor was installed. The collar was frayed, some buttons and snaps worn down, but it was pretty much intact.
My gloves, which featured carbon fiber knuckle protectors, had done their job. The knuckle guards had ground down on both hands, but neither had ground through.
My riding pants were Kevlar-lined jeans. Some of the denim covering had worn through, exposing the Kevlar lining. But the pants did their job, and did not fail. My leather belt also showed the scars of a slide down the pavement, grooves of wear that give me chills every time I look at them.
My boots came through unscathed, showing little or no evidence of having been through a crash.
I didn't notice until the next day that my watch had also taken a beating, its bezel having been ground down and crystal missing. It was an inexpensive Seiko, but it looked like it had done priceless duty saving my wrist from injury.
I didn't escape completely unscathed — my left forearm was scraped through the jacket, and my back, over my right kidney, had picked up a few scrapes where the jacket had pulled up. I didn't have many visible bruises, but my left thigh was deeply sore, as was my right hip. I took some ibuprofen and crawled into bed.
Over the next few days, the pain dulled into soreness. I found myself extremely tired, and I walked with a limp for a few weeks. Now, a month after the accident, I feel about 80 percent myself again, almost ready to resume my workout schedule (not looking forward to that).
Looking back over the accident, I hope I've learned a few things.
First, I wish I had trusted the nagging feeling that I wasn't at my best on the sidecar hack. I don't think there's any way I could have avoided being hit by a careless driver, but I can't help blaming myself for the incident in some way, and feeling that I wouldn't have been in a position to be overtaken if I had been on two wheels instead of three.
Second, I wish I had gone the next step and worn armored riding pants instead of just Kevlar-lined jeans. It would have been less comfortable and less convenient, certainly, but I would have lost less time to injury and discomfort after the accident.
Third, not to be too self-congratulatory, I'm glad that I'm an ATGATT guy. Looking at my gear, I'm sure that my injuries would have been much more serious if I had not been wearing all of that high quality protective gear. I'm glad that I chose a geeky-looking full-face helmet, even though a retro half-helmet would have been cooler and more comfortable on that old-fashioned Ural.
Inevitably, friends and family have asked me if I will ride again, now that I've tasted the pavement. Won't I be scared? Wasn't this a warning?
I have always accepted the possibility that I might go down some day. Anyone who doesn't is kidding themselves — there are just too many variables involved. But I won't let the reality of a crash keep me from riding. This accident will just further reinforce the importance of wearing high quality safety equipment — all of it — on every single ride, and to maintaining focus and concentration in all riding situations. I will wear armored riding pants from now on; and I will be more conscious of visibility from the rear, especially at night. It's possible that that pickup truck driver didn't see me well, and that's why he clipped my tire and put me on the ground.
I will continue to ride every time I can get on two wheels. I might have to think twice about driving another sidecar hack, but I'm sure I'll try that again when I get the chance. I'll insist on a bit of actual training, and I'll avoid one of the busiest freeways in the world on my first day of riding this time.
I'm grateful to all of the gear manufacturers who protected my hide, and I'm very thankful that I didn't have a passenger in my sidecar, and that no one else was injured in the accident. I will ride again.
The Gear I Was Wearing:
Helmet: Arai Signet-Q size XXL - $619.99
Jacket: Harley-Davidson Triple Vent System Evolution Waterproof Leather Jacket - $575.00
Armor: Optional CE approved Back Armor - $25.00
Jeans: Harley-Davidson Guardian Kevlar-Lined Jeans (no longer manufactured)
Gloves: Road Gear Carbon Maxx Gloves - $69.00
Boots: Harley-Davidson FXRG-3 Performance Boots - $250.00